A typical day of a Superintendent
Beloit College alum Dennis McCarthy was very involved around campus during his time at Beloit; including being a member of the football team for four years and an active member of fraternity Sigma Chi. He shares how his time at Beloit impacted him and his journey to becoming a superintendent.
“Undoubtedly, my time at Beloit allowed me to build some incredible and long-lasting relationships that have been beneficial to me both personally and professionally. I had many professors who influenced and shaped my abilities and confidence to become the professional I am today,” McCarthy said. “My friendships with former students, teammates, fraternity brothers, etc…still last to this day”.
While at Beloit, McCarthy learned many valuable skills and beliefs that contributed to his future success both academically and socially.
“One of the greatest influences was the teaching of inquiry-based practices. My science professors were very influential in their teaching and they modeled the need to imbed inquiry into our lessons,” McCarthy said. “While at Beloit College, I also learned a great deal about an appreciation for diversity and tolerance. The ability to interact and relate to so many individuals who have different cultural experiences than my own, helped me have a greater understanding of people who I would interact with in the field of education”.
McCarthy found many faculty and staff members to be quite influential throughout his time at and post Beloit.
“I had a number of individuals who influenced my time at Beloit College and beyond: Coach Ed DeGeorge, Bill Flanagan, Professor Tom Warren, many science professors, my teammates, and fraternity brothers. I continue to interact with these people to this day,” McCarthy shared. “One of the greatest influences I had as an educator was Kathy Greene. She taught me a great deal about what it looks like to invest in this profession on a personal level. From my being recognized as the first “honorary woman” of the Girls and Women in Science program to making great connections with local educators, Kathy was a big part of helping my confidence in this field”.
After graduation, McCarthy chose to continue his career within the Beloit community.
“I have stayed in the Beloit area for the past 26 years. My cooperating teacher was retiring at Aldrich Junior High (which became a middle school and is now an intermediate school) and I was hired to replace him,” McCarthy shared. “My other cooperating teacher, Heidi Andre (current BMHS science teacher), helped me grow exponentially as an educator. She is one of the most gifted educators I have ever seen. The connection from colleague to life-long friend will never be forgotten as she, more than anyone, has been my guide to what a great educator should be.”
Schools’ Superintendent is a complex and highly demanding job. McCarthy, shares his experience and typical day as Superintendent of Schools in the School District of Beloit Turner for 13 years.
“I started in this job fairly young and over the last 13 years, I have learned so much. There is no daily lesson plan I can follow. I have things I need to get done and plans I make for the day, but no two days are the same and rarely does my schedule flow as I plan,” McCarthy explains.
McCarthy shares how being Superintendent consists of many duties.
“I can be found out in the parking lot of the high school every morning helping with bus and car traffic. I am in the halls on many passing periods and I like to get down to the lunchroom with students daily. Visibility is one of the most important aspects of leadership. I always spend the last 20-25 minutes of the day acting as a crossing guard for our middle and high school students who cross the street in front of our school. The ‘why’ behind these tasks is simple…if as a leader you are not willing to do these tasks yourself, how can you expect others to want to do them”.
McCarthy explains further the leadership values of a Superintendent and why they matter.
“My day always starts by 7:00 AM at the latest and I really don’t have an end time. I attend every school event I can because I love seeing what our students do outside of classes as well. It also gives me a chance to see our parents and for them to see me. If students and parents know you are invested as a leader, they have a stronger belief in your ability as their leader. The most important thing a leader does is provide a vision and influence others to achieve the vision,” McCarthy emphasizes. “Great leaders take people where he/she wants them to go, whether they want to or not, and whether those individuals realize they are going to go there or not. Change can be difficult for people, but they will work with you if they believe in you as a leader. After 13 years at Turner as Superintendent, I believe I have earned the trust of our staff and families and this has allowed both myself and our district to accomplish some great things”.
McCarthy goes on to explain his personal leadership style, ethic and expectations.
“My leadership style is one of collaboration and cooperation. I have a very stable administrative team and we are close to each other. Our tough conversations happen in private and we walk out of the room agreeing that we are on the same page. We also enjoy being around each other and use a lot of laughter to get through our time together,” McCarthy said. “I expect my leaders to be able to lead their buildings and staff through site-based models where they also develop their own influential leaders in their buildings. No one should walk out of a meeting and say, ‘Dr. McCarthy says we have to…’ That is top down ‘central office’ talk and it does not work in a school district. I expect our leaders to speak their mind, but at the end of the day we build consensus and it is our decision”.
McCarthy leaves his advice for our current and prospective students who would like to follow the career path that he chose.
“As an educator, you are there as a servant to others and you have to be willing to put the needs of others oftentimes above your own personal needs. Kids want to know you on a personal level and that ability to make connections will be the most important factor in determining your success,” McCarthy urges. “Remember, however, that you are a ‘professional’ educator first and foremost. Much like being a parent, you have to act as the adult and in a professional manner in order to be credible in this field. You can still have fun, but always be respectful of what it means to be a professional”.